It’s not difficult to reflect back ten years on that memorable Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. A friend called around 8:50 asking us to turn on the television. Shortly afterward, another plane hit the twin towers. We knew things would never be the same again. Or would they?
We worried about our son, working near downtown Washington, D.C. We heard of the crash on the Pentagon. We then learned of the downed plane near Shanksville, PA. Was the whole country under attack? How could we not have known? It felt frightening.
That evening we opened the church for folks to come in and pray, ask questions, share stories and news reports of loved ones caught in the attacks. A Wayside member was in the tower when the first plane hit. He got out safely. Another member’s close high school friend did not get out; we learned later she had died. One of the oldest members surprisingly said, “Now I suppose we can learn more about the meaning of Jesus’ words, ‘Love and forgive your enemies!’”
The following weekend I made a scheduled trip to Washington, D.C. to see my son before attending a nearby conference on Thriving Church Revitalization. We drove down near the Pentagon and then played a round of golf across the river. It was a somewhat silent round with foxes often running out after our golf balls. It felt surreal.
Since then we have been engaged in wars fighting terrorism. The costs have risen to over a trillion dollars I am told. Over 3000 people died in the 9/11 attacks in America. I read estimates of civilians killed in Afghanistan topping 3000 civilian casualties in our first few months of bombing. After invading Iraq, I was told at a Presbytery church meeting by Moslem friends over 500,000 civilians had died there. I heard a Muslim from Iraq say, “You had one 9/11; we still have them every week.” I have heard similar reports from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I learned the accused perpetrator of the attacks, Osama Bin Laden, had once been our ally in supporting the expulsion of the Russians from Afghanistan in the 1980s. I learned of our past friendship and support for Saddam Hussein in Iraq, even selling him poison supplies. Osama had been raised in Saudi Arabia, the son of a very wealthy contractor who had prospered during the increased oil production for the west in those years. I learned most of the hijackers on 9/11 were from that same country but had secret training centers in Afghanistan and other nearby countries. I remember members of their families in America being quietly escorted out of the country without any questions the day after 9/11. I wondered why.
A few years ago I heard through a channeled message some of the hijackers reported from the other side that there were no 70 virgins awaiting them and they had made a horrible mistake filled now with deep regret.
We have continued at war seeking to bring more security to our land. We still don’t feel it. People are afraid of “lone wolves” who this weekend might carry a deadly suitcase into a crowd or stadium or fly a small plane loaded with explosives into a building. Our country seems to feel very insecure and troubled; over more possible attacks, how to finance all the wars, a sagging economy from having the huge surplus 10 years ago, conducting another multi-million dollar marathon election for president while people seek to go on living as normal with high unemployment, failing schools, and awful weather afflicting so much of the country.
Where is hope? Where can we find it? Within ourselves. Within our Spirit Selves. It is a choice in our minds; how we think about the world around us including our temperamental, aging bodies. Is it not truly only an illusion of reality?
I think of myself as not really even here except in a dream and I can seek to make it a happy one rather than so full of terror and fear. How? By forgiving myself for seeing things upside down, by thinking of God as making this mess. By seeing myself as Spirit, connected with all that is Real and Eternal. I think of our journeys here coming from our own imaginations of what it would be like to be independent and embodied with egos and self-assertedness. It hasn’t always been constant fun and stress free. Yet we keep chasing, looking. I seemed to only get a few glimpses of such relief and then lapse back into the survival mode.
How can I have peace amidst such a world of pain, death, and fear? Jesus says in the Bible we can have peace, that He leaves us His peace. How? By seeing beyond the seen to the unseen dimension. By using my intuitive mind rather than my calculating, analyzing one. By seeing One Spirit within many bodies and around me all the time, everywhere! By trusting and living by the Spirit described as “unborn, undying, never ceasing, deathless, birthless and unchanging forever.” (Bhagavad-Gita) How can I experience this? By living with compassion, love and kindness for all, including my enemies on a level beyond their actions.
In a world of violence, anger and guilt, such a perspective makes increasing sense to me and brings the deepest realization of peace. I daily learn the lessons to love and accept my mortalness with increased love and humor, and others as well. I can learn to look past bodies and minds learning to forgive and love all, friend and foe. This is not new thinking with me, or course, but it harks from ages past, to the times of Jesus and much, much further.
As I reflect and observe this week’s observations, I will extend as much love and kindness as possible to all who lost loved ones here and in countries we are presently at war. I will imagine the time when both sides come together, able to let past hatreds go, and begin anew to live in compassion and sharing. It never comes for long in time, but then, time isn’t real. Meanwhile, I will remember to look beyond the fleeting, mortal bodies I see, discerning with love the Sameness in all.